Monday, February 11, 2008

The Jelly Between My Toes

Each night, when I get into camp, I like to take off my shoes and socks and do what I can for my feet. Blisters will get popped, dirt cleaned off as best I can, dead skin peeled off. That sort of thing. It's been weeks since a blister needed popping, and now that I'm no longer hiking through water and mud, the dirt is at a relative minimum. Loose skin I peel off every night, though.

I have to be careful about peeling off that dead skin, however. Sometimes its attached to live skin, or is acting like protection for newer skin forming underneath.

The back of one of my heels is a good example. There's a thick layer of dead skin--VERY thick--that looks like it would be so much fun to peel off. I refrain, however, since I'm afraid it would leave a relatively thin and delicate skin for 20-mile per day hikes. Not a good thing.

There's a big, black hunk of dead skin on my left pinky that looks ready to cut off, but I don't. I'm not sure how close to the surface it is to the still living skin, and I don't want to cut too deep. It doesn't hurt, so I let it be. (If you'r worried about it being black, it's been that way ever since hiking through Big Cypress. I think the color of the mud and water permanently attached itself to that dead skin.)

Then there's the jelly between the toes. All of the toes have it, but I'm always astounded at the amount of jelly that forms between my two smallest toes. Huge gobs of it, every night it seems like. Wet with sweat, and has a rather unsavory smell. The rest of my toes have that same jelly, except that it's usually dry and doesn't smell.

The sheer quantity of the jelly between those little toes astounds me, though. If I saved it all, I think I could shape it into several new toes. The skin looks pink and sensitive, but there's no pain associated with it, and each day, it continues to shed a seemingly infinite supply.

But I digress.... you don't really want to hear about that, do you? =)

So, last I left you, I camped a mile or so north on the trail from the city of Paisley, completely dry since I slept under a properly set up tarp.

While packing up camp, a day hiker went past. Actually, he passed me earlier in the morning while I was still entwined in my warm sleeping bag, but on his return trip I was up and moving and breaking down camp, and he stopped long enough to chat.

We ended up chatting for the better part of an hour, about Central America for much of that time. I forget his name (and I gave him the URL for this blog, so if you're reading this, I'm sorry I forgot your name!)

It gave me a late 9:30 start to my hike, in any case. It was a fun chat, but I probably lingered longer than I should have.

On another note, I should mention a strange thing has been happening to the trail starting near the Orlando area. In some places, the trail and the lands around it are NOT flat. It would be a stretch to call them hills, but the terrain is certainly lumpy in places, apparently natural humps to boot.

It's a nice change, and I find myself fascinated with the rolling humps. Crossing an area where visibility is good, I find myself fascinated with slopes, following their contours with my eyes. The subtle shifting use of different muscles on the inclines and declines.

A couple of miles into the hike, I met another backpacker. In Ocala National Forest, I'd see quit a number of backpackers along the way--sometimes as many as three or four in a single day! (Insert ooohs here.) Compared to everywhere else south of here, this is a backpacking hotspot the likes I've never seen before.

This particular hiker was by himself, stopped in the trail, but I knew he was heading south because I'd been breaking too many cobwebs on the trail for him to have been hiking ahead of me.

We chatted a bit, and he seemed rather excited to meet a real, live thru-hiker after learning I'd hiked all the way from Key West and had alredy done the Appalachian Trail. Thru-hikers aren't THAT uncommon, at least not out east, so I asked where he was from.

"Grover Beach," he answered. "It's near San Luis Obispo--"

I cut him off. "NO WAY!" He had begun explaining where Grover Beach was because it's a dinky little town that most people in California wouldn't even know where it is much less a strange backpacker on the Florida Trail. Except that I was from San Luis Obispo which is probably a 15 drie away.

"I know *exactly* where Grover Beach is! I'm from San Luis Obispo! I remember when it was called Grover City!"

Small world, huh? I've probably passed less than a half dozen backpackers on the Florida Trail, and this guy lives within spitting distance of my home town.

We we started talking about the area, and hikes in the area such as up Madonna Mountain, and our favorite places to eat.

"What's your name?" I asked him.


"NO WAY!!!"

The coincidences officially became freakish.

"How old are you?" He looked perhaps a bit younger than me, I thought, but certainly not by much.

"Turned 28 today."

Different ages at least. "Well happy birthday!" Different birthdays too. =)

We swapped contact information, and when I wrote down my domain, he exclaimed, "You mean that wasn't taken?!"

"Yeah, can you believe it! I was so sure someone would have snapped up such a great domain before me."

I suggested we get together when we both make it back to San Luis and swap more war stories, but we must have chatted for the better part of an hour before we continued on our separate ways. (I see he's already posted a comment on my blog, too!)

At the end of the day, I set up camp near the trail junction for Farles campground. I set up my tarp--last time I checked, rain was in the forecast, and it already looked like it was ready to rain. This time, the tarp's primary purpose would be protection from rain--not just dew like the night before.

It did rain during the night, quite hard at times, and drizzled a bit at sunrise. I stayed warm and dry under the tarp, though. What a difference it makes when it's set up properly instead of thrown over myself. =)


Anonymous said...

Hi Ryan, Don't know how much you read the comments, but if you get a chance, take a picture of your tarp/tent all setup. I'm trying to figure out how a couple of tarps help to keep you safe from the rain.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Jelly Boy, you do have a way with words! Happy dry footed hiking.

Grumpy Grinch

Anonymous said...

I'd be surprised if this doesn't provoke some folks to run the numbers on some toe jelly statistics now. =)
Enjoy; be safe,
Hermit Crab

Oread said...

When I hiked a lot my friends and I called it Toe Jam

Kaaren said...

Ok, so I'm taking what loosely passes for a "lunch break" and decided to read your post as I ate my mixed berries yogurt.....and then I read about toe jelly. I put the yogurt down and said "WAY Too Much Info, Ryan" aloud to myself in the office. :)

Anonymous said...

sounds to me like athlete's foot, a fungal infection. Why don't you get some powder to put in there every day? They even make medicated stuff. Your feet are important to you!

Also, the calluses can be filed off with an emery board, they even make pumice things for feet (and by the way they are great for getting ink off fingers)

Ryan said...

I have pictures of my tarp, which will eventually end up on the Ryan's A Total Goober website. And I put Gold Bold on my feet every morning and every night. Wonderful stuff, that Gold Bond. =)

No athlete's foot, though, unless it's just well-hidden in the usual wear and tear of the trail. That's just what 20 miles of hiking a day will do to your feet. It happens. *shrug*

Kristin aka Trekkie Gal said...

Ok, that was really, um, gross. I would appreciate it if you would never speak of such things again! :D

Anonymous said...

Yah, too much information, Ryan!

Anonymous said...

Oh, Ryan. I mentioned in a previous post that I was living precariously in your shoes, however, I don't want to share any of that nasty stuff between your toes! lol


4 Little Piggies said...

I find it hard that nobody mentioned having to walk away from their PB&J
= ) We're enjoying reading about your adventure!
Bill of the 4 Little Piggies

Kay/The Little Foxes said...

Yesterday I was watching some TV (I've completely forgotten what it was) and there was a police station, a man sitting at a desk, and San Luis Obispo on the map behind him. Not as "small world" as your encounter, but for a gal who's never been west of the Mississippi - pretty amazing that I remembered "that's Ryan's town!". Happy hiking!

Peas on Earth said...

Ryan (the one from SLO),

I think this is what one would call,
"TMI" :-)

Still enjoying your blog. Thanks for keeping us updated. How fun to meet Ryan (the one from GB, lest I confuse you ... or myself for that matter)! What great coincidence!

Elizabeth Metz said...


I will so never eat jelly again.

My tush thanks you.


Anonymous said...

ok, so we asked for it.........more posts, more often. and we forgot to tell you what to post.........umm didn't think we would have to but then again this is our ryan we are talking about. i don't think i'll ask about your feet for about another 300 miles.

speaking of miles i know and can find the map that shows where you have been. can you post a link to show the whole hike from the keys to springer mountain. i can't seem to find that total route online. thanks.

happy hiking.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Ryan...better heed that previous comment about the Tinea pedis AKA athlete's foot!


PS: Talk about coincidences, "San ___ Obispo" was a clue in the Chicago Tribune crossword puzzle I was working today. Thought of you!

Kerstin said...

Grab a piece of toast and throw some of that jelly on it......mmmmmmmm....BLECH! Gross Ryan! LOL Sounds like Gold Bond mixing with your sweat and making jelly-yucky. I agree with the poster above-is there a link to see the trail where you're going?

Anonymous said...

"have to be careful about peeling off that dead skin, however. Sometimes its attached to live skin"

That is what we nurses like to call "nature's bandaid". So... Leave it alone, it is there for a reason.....

Thanks for all the inspiration. Because of you, I WILL be back on the road to "healthy" weight loss very soon.

Sweet N Sour

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Never heard the term toe jelly before. It kinda sorta sounds better than toe jam, though.

Either way, neither of them would go well with peanut butter or toast. blech!


Seriously, if I ever do a hike like that I will be slathering all sorts of foot lotion on my feet every night, just to thank my feet for carrying me for so many miles.

Hike on!
~Twinville Trekkers